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1.  Economic evaluation of implementation strategies in health care 
Economic evaluations can inform decisions about the efficiency and allocation of resources to implementation strategies—strategies explicitly designed to inform care providers and patients about the best available research evidence and to enhance its use in their practices. These strategies are increasingly popular in health care, especially in light of growing concerns about quality of care and limits on resources. But such concerns have hardly motivated health authorities and other decision-makers to spend on some form of economic evaluation in their assessments of implementation strategies. This editorial addresses the importance of economic evaluation in the context of implementation science—particularly, how these analyses can be most efficiently incorporated into decision-making processes about implementation strategies.
PMCID: PMC4279808  PMID: 25518730
Implementation strategies; Cost of implementation; Economic evaluation; Decision-making
2.  Optimizing the use of expert panel reference diagnoses in diagnostic studies of multidimensional syndromes 
BMC Neurology  2014;14(1):190.
In the absence of a gold standard, a panel of experts can be invited to assign a reference diagnosis for use in research. Available literature offers limited guidance on assembling and working with an expert panel for this purpose. We aimed to develop a protocol for an expert panel consensus diagnosis and evaluated its applicability in a pilot project.
An adjusted Delphi method was used, which started with the assessment of clinical vignettes by 3 experts individually, followed by a consensus discussion meeting to solve diagnostic discrepancies. A panel facilitator ensured that all experts were able to express their views, and encouraged the use of argumentation to arrive at a specific diagnosis, until consensus was reached by all experts. Eleven vignettes of patients suspected of having a primary neurodegenerative disease were presented to the experts. Clinical information was provided stepwise and included medical history, neurological, physical and cognitive function, brain MRI scan, and follow-up assessments over 2 years. After the consensus discussion meeting, the procedure was evaluated by the experts.
The average degree of consensus for the reference diagnosis increased from 52% after individual assessment of the vignettes to 94% after the consensus discussion meeting. Average confidence in the diagnosis after individual assessment was 85%. This did not increase after the consensus discussion meeting. The process evaluation led to several recommendations for improvement of the protocol.
A protocol for attaining a reference diagnosis based on expert panel consensus was shown feasible in research practice.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12883-014-0190-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4195860  PMID: 25280531
Reference diagnosis; Consensus panel; Delphi; Gold standard; Diagnostic validation; Incorporation bias; Multidimensional syndromes; Alzheimer’s disease
3.  High-sensitive Troponin T assay for the diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction: an economic evaluation 
Delayed diagnosis and treatment of Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI) has a major adverse impact on prognosis in terms of both morbidity and mortality. Since conventional cardiac Troponin assays have a low sensitivity for diagnosing AMI in the first hours after myocardial necrosis, high-sensitive assays have been developed. The aim of this study was to assess the cost effectiveness of a high-sensitive Troponin T assay (hsTnT), alone or combined with the heart-type fatty acid-binding protein (H-FABP) assay in comparison with the conventional cardiac Troponin (cTnT) assay for the diagnosis of AMI in patients presenting to the hospital with chest pain.
We performed a cost-utility analysis (quality adjusted life years-QALYs) and a cost effectiveness analysis (life years gained-LYGs) based on a decision analytic model, using a health care perspective in the Dutch context and a life time time-horizon. The robustness of model predictions was explored using one-way and probabilistic sensitivity analyses.
For a life time incremental cost of 30.70 Euros, use of hsTnT over conventional cTnT results in gain of 0.006 Life Years and 0.004 QALY. It should be noted here that hsTnT is a diagnostic intervention which costs only 4.39 Euros/test more than the cTnT test. The ICER generated with the use of hsTnT based diagnostic strategy comparing with the use of a cTnT-based strategy, is 4945 Euros per LYG and 7370 Euros per QALY. The hsTnT strategy has the highest probability of being cost effective at thresholds between 8000 and 20000 Euros per QALY. The combination of hsTnT and h-FABP strategy’s probability of being cost effective remains lower than hsTnT at all willingness to pay thresholds.
Our analysis suggests that hsTnT assay is a very cost effective diagnostic tool relative to conventional TnT assay. Combination of hsTnT and H-FABP does not offer any additional economic and health benefit over hsTnT test alone.
PMCID: PMC4065542  PMID: 24927776
Cost-effectiveness; Decision model; Acute myocardial infarction; High-sensitive troponin T
4.  Screen or not to screen for peripheral arterial disease: guidance from a decision model 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:89.
Asymptomatic Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is associated with greater risk of acute cardiovascular events. This study aims to determine the cost-effectiveness of one time only PAD screening using Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) test and subsequent anti platelet preventive treatment (low dose aspirin or clopidogrel) in individuals at high risk for acute cardiovascular events compared to no screening and no treatment using decision analytic modelling.
A probabilistic Markov model was developed to evaluate the life time cost-effectiveness of the strategy of selective PAD screening and consequent preventive treatment compared to no screening and no preventive treatment. The analysis was conducted from the Dutch societal perspective and to address decision uncertainty, probabilistic sensitivity analysis was performed. Results were based on average values of 1000 Monte Carlo simulations and using discount rates of 1.5% and 4% for effects and costs respectively. One way sensitivity analyses were performed to identify the two most influential model parameters affecting model outputs. Then, a two way sensitivity analysis was conducted for combinations of values tested for these two most influential parameters.
For the PAD screening strategy, life years and quality adjusted life years gained were 21.79 and 15.66 respectively at a lifetime cost of 26,548 Euros. Compared to no screening and treatment (20.69 life years, 15.58 Quality Adjusted Life Years, 28,052 Euros), these results indicate that PAD screening and treatment is a dominant strategy. The cost effectiveness acceptability curves show 88% probability of PAD screening being cost effective at the Willingness To Pay (WTP) threshold of 40000 Euros. In a scenario analysis using clopidogrel as an alternative anti-platelet drug, PAD screening strategy remained dominant.
This decision analysis suggests that targeted ABI screening and consequent secondary prevention of cardiovascular events using low dose aspirin or clopidogrel in the identified patients is a cost-effective strategy. Implementation of targeted PAD screening and subsequent treatment in primary care practices and in public health programs is likely to improve the societal health and to save health care costs by reducing catastrophic cardiovascular events.
PMCID: PMC3912926  PMID: 24476213
Cost-effectiveness; Peripheral arterial disease; Ankle brachial index; Decision model
5.  Impact of hypoglycemia on daily life of type 2 diabetes patients in Ukraine 
This study evaluates the impact of hypoglycemia on the lives of Ukrainian patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. The secondary objective was to explore patient–physician relationships and the attitudes of patients towards various informational resources on diabetes management. Three focus groups with 26 patients were conducted. Qualitative information was evaluated using content analysis. The results show that patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus in Ukraine are adapting to potential attacks of hypoglycemia; however, they still experience periodic manifestations of hypoglycemia that significantly affect their psychological well-being. This result is similar to observations made in other countries. Ukrainian patients >40 years old mainly receive information on disease management from endocrinologists, and rarely use internet resources on diabetes management. Information provision was especially important at the early stage of the disease, when patients lack information on hypoglycemia manifestations and could therefore fail to identify and manage it properly.
PMCID: PMC3712743  PMID: 23874102
diabetes; quality of life; developing countries; Europe; eastern
6.  Diagnostic and economic evaluation of new biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease: the research protocol of a prospective cohort study 
BMC Neurology  2012;12:72.
New research criteria for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have recently been developed to enable an early diagnosis of AD pathophysiology by relying on emerging biomarkers. To enable efficient allocation of health care resources, evidence is needed to support decision makers on the adoption of emerging biomarkers in clinical practice. The research goals are to 1) assess the diagnostic test accuracy of current clinical diagnostic work-up and emerging biomarkers in MRI, PET and CSF, 2) perform a cost-consequence analysis and 3) assess long-term cost-effectiveness by an economic model.
In a cohort design 241 consecutive patients suspected of having a primary neurodegenerative disease are approached in four academic memory clinics and followed for two years. Clinical data and data on quality of life, costs and emerging biomarkers are gathered.
Diagnostic test accuracy is determined by relating the clinical practice and new research criteria diagnoses to a reference diagnosis. The clinical practice diagnosis at baseline is reflected by a consensus procedure among experts using clinical information only (no biomarkers). The diagnosis based on the new research criteria is reflected by decision rules that combine clinical and biomarker information. The reference diagnosis is determined by a consensus procedure among experts based on clinical information on the course of symptoms over a two-year time period.
A decision analytic model is built combining available evidence from different resources among which (accuracy) results from the study, literature and expert opinion to assess long-term cost-effectiveness of the emerging biomarkers.
Several other multi-centre trials study the relative value of new biomarkers for early evaluation of AD and related disorders. The uniqueness of this study is the assessment of resource utilization and quality of life to enable an economic evaluation. The study results are generalizable to a population of patients who are referred to a memory clinic due to their memory problems.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3460756  PMID: 22883691
7.  Structuring and validating a cost-effectiveness model of primary asthma prevention amongst children 
Given the rising number of asthma cases and the increasing costs of health care, prevention may be the best cure. Decisions regarding the implementation of prevention programmes in general and choosing between unifaceted and multifaceted strategies in particular are urgently needed. Existing trials on the primary prevention of asthma are, however, insufficient on their own to inform the decision of stakeholders regarding the cost-effectiveness of such prevention strategies. Decision analytic modelling synthesises available data for the cost-effectiveness evaluation of strategies in an explicit manner. Published reports on model development should provide the detail and transparency required to increase the acceptability of cost-effectiveness modelling. But, detail on the explicit steps and the involvement of experts in structuring a model is often unevenly reported. In this paper, we describe a procedure to structure and validate a model for the primary prevention of asthma in children.
An expert panel was convened for round-table discussions to frame the cost-effectiveness research question and to select and structure a model. The model's structural validity, which indicates how well a model reflects the reality, was determined through descriptive and parallel validation. Descriptive validation was performed with the experts. Parallel validation qualitatively compared similarity between other published models with different decision problems.
The multidisciplinary input of experts helped to develop a decision-tree structure which compares the current situation with screening and prevention. The prevention was further divided between multifaceted and unifaceted approaches to analyse the differences. The clinical outcome was diagnosis of asthma. No similar model was found in the literature discussing the same decision problem. Structural validity in terms of descriptive validity was achieved with the experts and was supported by parallel validation.
A decision-tree model developed with experts in round-table discussions benefits from a systematic and transparent approach and the multidisciplinary contributions of the experts. Parallel validation provides a feasible alternative to validating novel models. The process of structuring and validating a model presented in this paper could be a useful guide to increase transparency, credibility, and acceptability of (future, novel) models when experts are involved.
PMCID: PMC3226537  PMID: 22070532
9.  Long term costs and effects of reducing the number of twin pregnancies in IVF by single embryo transfer: the TwinSing study 
BMC Pediatrics  2010;10:75.
Pregnancies induced by in vitro fertilisation (IVF) often result in twin gestations, which are associated with both maternal and perinatal complications. An effective way to reduce the number of IVF twin pregnancies is to decrease the number of embryos transferred from two to one. The interpretation of current studies is limited because they used live birth as outcome measure and because they applied limited time horizons. So far, research on long-term outcomes of IVF twins and singletons is scarce and inconclusive. The objective of this study is to investigate the short (1-year) and long-term (5 and 18-year) costs and health outcomes of IVF singleton and twin children and to consider these in estimating the cost-effectiveness of single embryo transfer compared with double embryo transfer, from a societal and a healthcare perspective.
A multi-centre cohort study will be performed, in which IVF singletons and IVF twin children born between 2003 and 2005 of whom parents received IVF treatment in one of the five participating Dutch IVF centres, will be compared. Data collection will focus on children at risk of health problems and children in whom health problems actually occurred. First year of life data will be collected in approximately 1,278 children (619 singletons and 659 twin children). Data up to the fifth year of life will be collected in approximately 488 children (200 singletons and 288 twin children). Outcome measures are health status, health-related quality of life and costs. Data will be obtained from hospital information systems, a parent questionnaire and existing registries. Furthermore, a prognostic model will be developed that reflects the short and long-term costs and health outcomes of IVF singleton and twin children. This model will be linked to a Markov model of the short-term cost-effectiveness of single embryo transfer strategies versus double embryo transfer strategies to enable the calculation of the long-term cost-effectiveness.
This is, to our knowledge, the first study that investigates the long-term costs and health outcomes of IVF singleton and twin children and the long-term cost-effectiveness of single embryo transfer strategies versus double embryo transfer strategies.
PMCID: PMC2978208  PMID: 20961411
10.  Cost-effectiveness of tailored print communication, telephone motivational interviewing, and a combination of the two: results of an economic evaluation alongside the Vitalum randomized controlled trial 
The aim of the present study was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of tailored print communication (TPC), telephone motivational interviewing (TMI), a combination of the two, and no intervention on two outcomes in adults aged 45 to 70, half of them having hypertension: increasing the number of public health guidelines met for three behaviors (physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption), and impact on quality adjusted life years (QALYs).
Participants (n = 1,629) from 23 Dutch general practices were randomized into one of four groups, which received 4 TPCs, 4 TMIs, 2 of each (combined), or no intervention (control), respectively. The self-reported outcomes, measured at baseline and 73 weeks follow-up (7 months after the last intervention component), were difference in total number of guidelines met at follow-up compared to baseline, and number of QALYs experienced over 73 weeks. The costs of implementing the intervention were estimated using a bottom-up approach.
At 73 weeks follow-up participants showed increased adherence with 0.62 (TPC), 0.40 (TMI), 0.50 (combined), and 0.26 (control) guidelines compared to baseline, and experienced 1.09, 1.08, 1.08, and 1.07 QALYs, respectively. The costs for the control group were considered to be zero. TMI was more expensive (€107 per person) than both the combined intervention (€80) and TPC (€57). The control condition was most cost-effective for lower ceiling ratios, while TPC had the highest probability of being most cost-effective for higher ceiling ratios (more than €160 per additional guideline met, and €2,851 for each individual QALY).
For low society's willingness to pay, the control group was most cost-effective for the number of QALYs experienced over 73 weeks. This also applied to the increase in the number of guidelines met at lower ceiling ratios, whereas at higher ceiling ratios, TPC had a higher probability of being more cost-effective than the TMI, combined or control conditions. This also seemed to apply for QALYs experienced over 73 weeks. More research is needed on the long-term efficacy of both TPC and TMI, as well as on how to increase their cost-effectiveness.
Trial registration
Dutch Trial Register NTR1068
PMCID: PMC2940922  PMID: 20815869
11.  Efficacy and cost-effectiveness of nutritional intervention in elderly after hip fracture: design of a randomized controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:212.
Hip fracture patients often have an impaired nutritional status at the time of fracture, which can result in a higher complication rate, prolonged rehabilitation time and increased mortality. A study was designed to evaluate the effect of nutritional intervention on nutritional status, functional status, total length of stay, postoperative complications and cost-effectiveness.
Open-labelled, multi-centre, randomized controlled trial in hip fracture patients aged 55 years and above. The intervention group receives dietetic counselling (by regular home visits and telephone calls) and oral nutritional supplementation for three months after surgery. The control group receives usual dietetic care as provided by the hospital. Outcome assessment is performed at three and six months after hip fracture.
Patient recruitment has started in July 2007 and has ended in December 2009. First results are expected in 2011.
Trial registration NCT00523575
PMCID: PMC2868003  PMID: 20423469
12.  Health-related quality of life after fast-track treatment results from a randomized controlled clinical equivalence trial 
Quality of Life Research  2010;19(5):631-642.
This randomized clinical equivalence trial was designed to evaluate health-related quality of life (HRQoL) after fast-track treatment for low-risk coronary artery bypass (CABG) patients.
Four hundred and ten CABG patients were randomly assigned to undergo either short-stay intensive care treatment (SSIC, 8 h of intensive care stay) or control treatment (care as usual, overnight intensive care stay). HRQoL was measured at baseline and 1 month, and one year after surgery using the multidimensional index of life quality (MILQ), the EQ-5D, the Beck Depression Inventory and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.
At one month after surgery, no statistically significant difference in overall HRQoL was found (MILQ-score P-value = .508, overall MILQ-index P-value = .543, EQ-5D VAS P-value = .593). The scores on the MILQ-domains, physical, and social functioning were significantly higher at one month postoperatively in the SSIC group compared to the control group (P-value = .049; 95%CI: 0.01–2.50 and P-value = .014, 95% CI: 0.24–2.06, respectively). However, these differences were no longer observed at long-term follow-up.
According to our definition of clinical equivalence, the HRQoL of SSIC patients is similar to patients receiving care as usual. Since safety and the financial benefits of this intervention were demonstrated in a previously reported analysis, SSIC can be considered as an adequate fast-track intensive care treatment option for low-risk CABG patients.
PMCID: PMC2874031  PMID: 20340049
Quality of life; Intensive care; Coronary artery bypass grafting; Randomized controlled trial
13.  Involving patients in cardiovascular risk management with nurse-led clinics: a cluster randomized controlled trial 
Preventive guidelines on cardiovascular risk management recommend lifestyle changes. Support for lifestyle changes may be a useful task for practice nurses, but the effect of such interventions in primary prevention is not clear. We examined the effect of involving patients in nurse-led cardiovascular risk management on lifestyle adherence and cardiovascular risk.
We performed a cluster randomized controlled trial in 25 practices that included 615 patients. The intervention consisted of nurse-led cardiovascular risk management, including risk assessment, risk communication, a decision aid and adapted motivational interviewing. The control group received a minimal nurse-led intervention. The self-reported outcome measures at one year were smoking, alcohol use, diet and physical activity. Nurses assessed 10-year cardiovascular mortality risk after one year.
There were no significant differences between the intervention groups. The effect of the intervention on the consumption of vegetables and physical activity was small, and some differences were only significant for subgroups. The effects of the intervention on the intake of fat, fruit and alcohol and smoking were not significant. We found no effect between the groups for cardiovascular 10-year risk.
Nurse-led risk communication, use of a decision aid and adapted motivational interviewing did not lead to relevant differences between the groups in terms of lifestyle changes or cardiovascular risk, despite significant within-group differences.
PMCID: PMC2789146  PMID: 19948811
14.  Cost Analysis of the Dutch Obstetric System: low-risk nulliparous women preferring home or short-stay hospital birth - a prospective non-randomised controlled study 
In the Netherlands, pregnant women without medical complications can decide where they want to give birth, at home or in a short-stay hospital setting with a midwife. However, a decrease in the home birth rate during the last decennium may have raised the societal costs of giving birth. The objective of this study is to compare the societal costs of home births with those of births in a short-stay hospital setting.
This study is a cost analysis based on the findings of a multicenter prospective non-randomised study comparing two groups of nulliparous women with different preferences for where to give birth, at home or in a short-stay hospital setting. Data were collected using cost diaries, questionnaires and birth registration forms. Analysis of the data is divided into a base case analysis and a sensitivity analysis.
In the group of home births, the total societal costs associated with giving birth at home were €3,695 (per birth), compared with €3,950 per birth in the group for short-stay hospital births. Statistically significant differences between both groups were found regarding the following cost categories 'Cost of contacts with health care professionals during delivery' (€138.38 vs. €87.94, -50 (2.5-97.5 percentile range (PR)-76;-25), p < 0.05), 'cost of maternity care at home' (€1,551.69 vs. €1,240.69, -311 (PR -485; -150), p < 0.05) and 'cost of hospitalisation mother' (€707.77 vs. 959.06, 251 (PR 69;433), p < 0.05). The highest costs are for hospitalisation (41% of all costs). Because there is a relatively high amount of (partly) missing data, a sensitivity analysis was performed, in which all missing data were included in the analysis by means of general mean substitution. In the sensitivity analysis, the total costs associated with home birth are €4,364 per birth, and €4,541 per birth for short-stay hospital births.
The total costs associated with pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum care are comparable for home birth and short-stay hospital birth. The most important differences in costs between the home birth group and the short-stay hospital birth group are associated with maternity care assistance, hospitalisation, and travelling costs.
PMCID: PMC2784768  PMID: 19925673
15.  Cost-effectiveness of postural exercise therapy versus physiotherapy in computer screen-workers with early non-specific work-related upper limb disorders (WRULD); a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2009;10:103.
Exercise therapies generate substantial costs in computer workers with non-specific work-related upper limb disorders (WRULD).
To study if postural exercise therapy is cost-effective compared to regular physiotherapy in screen-workers with early complaints, both from health care and societal perspective.
Prospective randomized trial including cost-effectiveness analysis; one year follow-up. Participants: Eighty-eight screen-workers with early non-specific WRULD; six drop-outs. Interventions: A ten week postural exercise program versus regular physiotherapy. Outcome measures: Effectiveness measures: Pain: visual analogous scale (VAS), self-perceived WRULD (yes/no). Functional outcome: Disabilities of Arm, Shoulder and Hand- Dutch Language Version (DASH-DLV). Quality of life outcome: EQ-5D.
Economic measures: health care costs including patient and family costs and productivity costs resulting in societal costs. Cost-effectiveness measures: health care costs and societal costs related to the effectiveness measures. Outcome measures were assessed at baseline; three, six and twelve months after baseline.
At baseline both groups were comparable for baseline characteristics except scores on the Pain Catastrophizing Scale and comparable for costs. No significant differences between the groups concerning effectiveness at one year follow-up were found. Effectiveness scores slightly improved over time. After one year 55% of participants were free of complaints. After one year the postural exercise group had higher mean total health care costs, but lower productivity costs compared to the physiotherapy group. Mean societal costs after one year (therefore) were in favor of postural exercise therapy [- €622; 95% CI -2087; +590)]. After one year, only self- perceived WRULD seemed to result in acceptable cost-effectiveness of the postural exercise strategy over physiotherapy; however the probability of acceptable cost-effectiveness did not exceed 60%.
Considering societal costs related to QALYs, postural exercise therapy had a probability of over 80% to be cost-effective over a wide range of cost-effectiveness ceiling ratios; however based on a marginal QALY-difference of 0.1 over a 12 month time frame.
Although our trial failed to find significant differences in VAS, QALYs and ICERs based on VAS and QALYs at one-year follow-up, CEACs suggest that postural exercise therapy according to Mensendieck/Cesar has a higher probability of being cost-effective compared to regular physiotherapy; however further research is required.
Trial registration
ISRCTN 15872455
PMCID: PMC2785778  PMID: 19922603
16.  Implementing cognitive behavior therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome in mental health care: a costs and outcomes analysis 
This study investigated the costs and outcomes of implementing cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in a mental health center (MHC). CBT is an evidence-based treatment for CFS that was scarcely available until now. To investigate the possibilities for wider implementation, a pilot implementation project was set up.
Costs and effects were evaluated in a non-controlled before- and after study with an eight months time-horizon. Both the costs of performing the treatments and the costs of implementing the treatment program were included in the analysis. The implementation interventions included: informing general practitioners (GPs) and CFS patients, training therapists, and instructing the MHC employees. Given the non-controlled design, cost outcome ratios (CORs) and their acceptability curves were analyzed. Analyses were done from a health care perspective and from a societal perspective. Bootstrap analyses were performed to estimate the uncertainty around the cost and outcome results.
125 CFS patients were included in the study. After treatment 37% had recovered from CFS and the mean gained QALY was 0.03. Costs of patients' health care and productivity losses had decreased significantly. From the societal perspective the implementation led to cost savings and to higher health states for patients, indicating dominancy. From the health care perspective the implementation revealed overall costs of €5.320 per recovered patient, with an acceptability curve showing a 100% probability for a positive COR at a willingness to pay threshold of €6.500 per recovered patient.
Implementing CBT for CFS in a MHC appeared to have a favorable cost outcome ratio (COR) from a societal perspective. From a health care perspective the COR depended on how much a recovered CFS patient is being valued. The strength of the evidence was limited by the non-controlled design. The outcomes of this study might facilitate health care providers when confronted with the decision whether or not to adopt CBT for CFS in their institution.
PMCID: PMC2536664  PMID: 18700975
17.  Clinical and cost-effectiveness of computerised cognitive behavioural therapy for depression in primary care: Design of a randomised trial 
BMC Public Health  2008;8:224.
Major depression is a common mental health problem in the general population, associated with a substantial impact on quality of life and societal costs. However, many depressed patients in primary care do not receive the care they need. Reason for this is that pharmacotherapy is only effective in severely depressed patients and psychological treatments in primary care are scarce and costly. A more feasible treatment in primary care might be computerised cognitive behavioural therapy. This can be a self-help computer program based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. Although previous studies suggest that computerised cognitive behavioural therapy is effective, more research is necessary. Therefore, the objective of the current study is to evaluate the (cost-) effectiveness of online computerised cognitive behavioural therapy for depression in primary care.
In a randomised trial we will compare (a) computerised cognitive behavioural therapy with (b) treatment as usual by a GP, and (c) computerised cognitive behavioural therapy in combination with usual GP care. Three hundred mild to moderately depressed patients (aged 18–65) will be recruited in the general population by means of a large-scale Internet-based screening (N = 200,000). Patients will be randomly allocated to one of the three treatment groups. Primary outcome measure of the clinical evaluation is the severity of depression. Other outcomes include psychological distress, social functioning, and dysfunctional beliefs. The economic evaluation will be performed from a societal perspective, in which all costs will be related to clinical effectiveness and health-related quality of life. All outcome assessments will take place on the Internet at baseline, two, three, six, nine, and twelve months. Costs are measured on a monthly basis. A time horizon of one year will be used without long-term extrapolation of either costs or quality of life.
Although computerised cognitive behavioural therapy is a promising treatment for depression in primary care, more research is needed. The effectiveness of online computerised cognitive behavioural therapy without support remains to be evaluated as well as the effects of computerised cognitive behavioural therapy in combination with usual GP care. Economic evaluation is also needed. Methodological strengths and weaknesses are discussed.
Trial registration
The study has been registered at the Netherlands Trial Register, part of the Dutch Cochrane Centre (ISRCTN47481236).
PMCID: PMC2474681  PMID: 18590518
18.  Vitalum study design: RCT evaluating the efficacy of tailored print communication and telephone motivational interviewing on multiple health behaviors 
BMC Public Health  2008;8:216.
A large proportion of adults fail to meet public health guidelines for physical activity as well as fruit, vegetable and fat intake. Interventions are needed to improve these health behaviors. Both computer tailoring and motivational interviewing have shown themselves to be promising techniques for health behavior change. The Vitalum project aims to compare the efficacy of these techniques in improving the health behaviors of adults aged 45–70. This paper describes the design of the Vitalum study.
Dutch general medical practices (N = 23) were recruited via a registration network or by personal invitation. The participants were then enrolled through these general practices using an invitational letter. They (n = 2,881) received a written baseline questionnaire to assess health behaviors, and potential psychosocial and socio-demographic behavioral determinants. A power analysis indicated that 1,600 participants who were failing to meet the guidelines for physical activity and either fruit or vegetable consumption were needed. Eligible participants were stratified based on hypertension status and randomized into one of four intervention groups: tailored print communication, telephone motivational interviewing, combined, and control. The first two groups either received four letters or took part in four interviews, whereas the combined group received two letters and took part in two interviews in turns at 5, 13, 30 and 43 weeks after returning the baseline questionnaire. Each letter and interview focused on physical activity or nutrition behavior. The participants also took part in a telephone survey 25 weeks after baseline to gather new information for tailoring. There were two follow-up questionnaires, at 47 and 73 weeks after baseline, to measure short- and long-term effects. The control group received a tailored letter after the last posttest. The process, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of the interventions will be examined by means of multilevel mixed regression, cost-effectiveness analyses and process evaluation.
The Vitalum study simultaneously evaluates the efficacy of tailored print communication and telephone motivational interviewing, and their combined use for multiple behaviors and people with different motivational stages and education levels. The results can be used by policymakers to contribute to evidence-based prevention of chronic diseases.
Trial Registration
Dutch Trial Register NTR1068
PMCID: PMC2443140  PMID: 18565222
19.  Cost-effectiveness of a nurse-led telemonitoring intervention based on peak expiratory flow measurements in asthmatics: results of a randomised controlled trial 
Asthma is a chronic lung disease in which recurrent asthma symptoms create a substantial burden to individuals and their families. At the same time the economic burden associated with asthma is considerable.
The cost-effectiveness study was part of a single centre prospective randomised controlled trial comparing a nurse-led telemonitoring programme to usual care in a population of asthmatic outpatients. The study included 109 asthmatic outpatients (56 children; 53 adults). The duration of follow-up was 12 months, and measurements were performed at baseline, 4, 8, and 12 months. Patients were asked to transfer their monitor data at least twice daily and by judging the received data and following a stepwise intervention protocol a nurse was able to act as the main caregiver in the intervention group. In both groups the EQ-5D and the SF-6D were used to obtain estimates of health state utilities. One year health care costs, patient and family costs, and productivity losses were calculated. The mean incremental costs were weighted against the mean incremental effect in terms of QALY.
The study population generally represented mild to moderate asthmatics. No significant differences were found between the groups with regard to the generic quality of life. Overall, the mean health care costs per patient were higher in the intervention group than in the control group. The intervention costs mainly caused the cost difference between the groups. The intervention costs the society € 31,035/QALY gained with regard to adults and with regard to children € 59,071/QALY gained.
If the outcome is measured by generic quality of life the nurse-led telemonitoring programme is of limited cost-effectiveness in the study population. From the societal perspective the probability of the programme being cost-effective compared to regular care was 85% at a ceiling ratio of € 80,000/QALY gained among the adults and 68% among the children. A decrease in the price of the asthma monitor will substantial increase the probability of the programme to be cost-effective.
Trial registration
Number: NCT00411436
PMCID: PMC2000864  PMID: 17662113
20.  Performance of the EQ-5D and the EQ-5D+C in elderly patients with cognitive impairments 
The EQ-5D is a reliable tool for measuring Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL). However, concern has been expressed that it may ignore elements of HRQoL, particularly cognition. In response to this concern, the EQ-5D has been extended with a cognitive dimension (EQ-5D+C). The aim of this study was to compare the performance of the EQ-5D and the EQ-5D+C in elderly patients with cognitive impairments by assessing their construct validity and responsiveness.
Data from the MEDICIE study (n = 196) were used, in which all questionnaires were rated by proxies.
Regarding construct validity, we found similar correlations between the EQ-5D and the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and between the EQ-5D+C and the MMSE. Furthermore, both the EQ-5D and the EQ-5D+C were responsive to changes in the MMSE, with the EQ-5D performing slightly better.
We conclude that the EQ-5D performs well for evaluating HRQoL in a population with cognitive impairments. Based on the results of this explorative study, it does not seem necessary to adjust the current classification system by adding a cognitive dimension. However, in order to compare both instruments regarding utility values, it is necessary to develop a new scoring algorithm for the EQ-5D+C by conducting a general population study. Considering the explorative nature of this study, it is recommended that more aspects of the validity of both the EQ-5D and the EQ-5D+C are explored in patients with cognitive impairments using a more tailored study design.
PMCID: PMC1904437  PMID: 17570832
21.  Improving management of patients with acute cough by C-reactive protein point of care testing and communication training (IMPAC3T): study protocol of a cluster randomised controlled trial 
BMC Family Practice  2007;8:15.
Most antibiotic prescriptions for acute cough due to lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI) in primary care are not warranted. Diagnostic uncertainty and patient expectations and worries are major drivers of unnecessary antibiotic prescribing. A C-reactive protein (CRP) point of care test may help GPs to better guide antibiotic treatment by ruling out pneumonia in cases of low test results. Alternatively, enhanced communication skills training to help clinicians address patients' expectations and worries could lead to a decrease in antibiotic prescribing, without compromising clinical recovery, while enhancing patient enablement. The aim of this paper is to describe the design and methods of a study to assess two interventions for improving LRTI management in general practice.
This cluster randomised controlled, factorial trial will introduce two interventions in general practice; point of care CRP testing and enhanced communication skills training for LRTI. Twenty general practices with two participating GPs per practice will recruit 400 patients with LRTI during two winter periods. Patients will be followed up for at least 28 days. The primary outcome measure is the antibiotic prescribing rate. Secondary outcomes are clinical recovery, cost-effectiveness, use of other diagnostic tests and medical services (including reconsultation), and patient enablement.
This trial is the first cluster randomised trial to evaluate the influence of point of care CRP testing in the hands of the general practitioner and enhanced communication skills, on the management of LRTI in primary care. The pragmatic nature of the study, which leaves treatment decisions up to the responsible clinicians, will enhance the applicability and generalisability of findings. The factorial design will allow conclusion to be made about the value of CRP testing on its own, communication skills training on its own, and the two combined. Evaluating a biomedical and communication based intervention ('hard' and 'soft' technologies) together in this way makes this trial unique in its field.
PMCID: PMC1847819  PMID: 17394651
22.  Does a joint development and dissemination of multidisciplinary guidelines improve prescribing behaviour: a pre/post study with concurrent control group and a randomised trial 
It is difficult to keep control over prescribing behaviour in general practices. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of a dissemination strategy of multidisciplinary guidelines on the volume of drug prescribing.
The study included two designs, a quasi-experimental pre/post study with concurrent control group and a random sample of GPs within the intervention group. The intervention area with 53 GPs was compared with a control group of 54 randomly selected GPs in the south and centre of the Netherlands. Additionally, a randomisation was executed in the intervention group to create two arms with 27 GPs who were more intensively involved in the development of the guideline and 26 GPs in the control group.
A multidisciplinary committee developed prescription guidelines. Subsequently these guidelines were disseminated to all GPs in the intervention region. Additional effects were studied in the subgroup trial in which GPs were invited to be more intensively involved in the guideline development procedure. The guidelines contained 14 recommendations on antibiotics, asthma/COPD drugs and cholesterol drugs
The main outcome measures were prescription data of a three-year period (one year before and 2 years after guideline dissemination) and proportion of change according to recommendations.
Significant short-term improvements were seen for one recommendation: mupirocin. Long-term changes were found for cholesterol drug prescriptions. No additional changes were seen for the randomised controlled study in the subgroup. GPs did not take up the invitation for involvement.
Disseminating multidisciplinary guidelines that were developed within a region, has no clear effect on prescribing behaviour even though GPs and specialists were involved more intensively in their development. Apparently, more effort is needed to bring about change.
PMCID: PMC1635708  PMID: 17081285

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